‘Wouldn’t It Be Cool?’ Brush Prairie Mom Wins Washington’s First Annual Save to Win Prize

Matt Devlin, TwinStar Credit Union’s vice president of marketing (right) and Dollar Dog were on hand Friday afternoon to help Janet Gullberg and her husband, Travis, pick up their check for $5,000 as the winners of Washington’s first annual Save to Win prize drawing.

With young children at home and a budget that seemed to be “hemorrhaging money,” saving for the future was all but impossible for Janet Gullberg and her family.

“Life just seemed to get in the way,” the Brush Prairie woman says, “and it was never small stuff. Every month, there were major expenses, especially when the kids got involved in sports and other activities. So we were terrible savers.”

Not anymore.

In April 2013, Gullberg opened a Save to Win account at TwinStar Credit Union in Vancouver because “$25 was easy. I liked the fact that I couldn’t touch the money for a year.  And the chance to win more money made it fun.”

Gullberg arranged for automatic deductions from her paycheck, and soon found that she and her husband, Travis, were looking for any opportunity to put more money into the account. “If someone gave us $100 for an anniversary present, that meant four more chances to win,” she says. “Whenever we had a little extra cash, it went into the account, too.”

That new savings habit paid off in a big way Friday, when Gullberg picked up a check for $5,000 as the winner of Washington’s first annual Save to Win prize drawing.

“We’ve never won anything in our whole life,” Gullberg says. “I thought the drawing was going to be held in March, so when the month came and went, I assumed we hadn’t won. But just the other day, I said to my husband, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool…?’”

Indeed it would, and that’s really the concept behind Save to Win, which now operates in four states: Inspire consumers by creating a kind of lottery in which players can win cash prizes just by saving money — and make it impossible for them to lose a dime.

All of the money members deposit in the 12-month certificate program stays in their accounts, because the Washington prize pool is funded by the Northwest Credit Union Association through its Strategic Link subsidiary. As members build their assets, they’re also eligible to win — each $25 deposit earns an entry into monthly and annual drawings, and members can earn up to 10 chances to win every month.

Typically, the monthly drawings award multiple $50 prizes. But on the first anniversary of Save to Win in Washington, three $5,000 monthly prizes were awarded for March. And on Friday, Gullberg became the winner of the state’s first annual prize.

“We’re building a new deck, so we’ll probably put $1,000 toward that,” says Gullberg, who has been a TwinStar member for more than a decade. “We’re going to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, too. But the rest is going into our Save to Win account, and we’re going to roll it over. Who knows – maybe we’ll win again!”

Even if the Gullbergs don’t score another prize, one thing is clear: Save to Win has had a huge impact on the family’s financial lives. “We still have debt, but we’re paying that off,” Gullberg says. “And we’re trying to pay with cash for any major expenses,” including the family’s recent trip to Disney World.

And savings? “That’s a priority now,” Gullberg says.

Oregon’s Legislature hasn’t voted to allow prize-linked savings accounts yet, but six Washington credit unions signed on when the program debuted locally in April 2013: Connection Credit Union, Express Credit Union, Fibre Federal, North Coast Credit Union, O Bee Credit Union and TwinStar Credit Union. In April, Peninsula Credit Union became the seventh Washington participant, launching its Save to Win program at a celebratory breakfast in Belfair.

Through the end of March, 950 members had opened Save to Win accounts in Washington, with total deposits of more than $885,000. The average saved per account is about $932. Fibre Federal members have saved the most money, TwinStar has opened the most accounts, and Connection boasts the highest average saved per account.

National media have shined a spotlight on Save to Win, including coverage on CNN and PBS and stories in The Salt Lake City Deseret News and The New York Times. You’ll also find recent coverage of the program in Anthem.

For more information about the Save to Win program in Washington, contact Craig Reed, the NWCUA’s director of strategic partnerships, at 206.340.4789 or creed@nwcua.org.

Questions about this story? Contact Gary M. Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

Posted in NWCUA.